Institute of Neuroscience

Staff Profile

Professor Miles Witham

Professor of Trials for Older People


I am an academic geriatrician with a particular focus on clinical trials for older people. Older people are underrepresented in clinical trials, and many clinical trials are not designed in a way that either facilitates participation for older people, or that provides outcomes relevant to older people, policymakers or health and social care professionals caring for older people.

My work as Professor of Trials for Older People will address this problem in three ways:

  1. by designing and running trials for older people across a range of disease states, seeking to improve physical function and quality of life in older people, testing interventions that target multiple pathologies of ageing, particularly cardiovascular disease and sarcopenia.
  2. by building capacity to conduct trials for older people in the UK and globally. Developing cohorts of older people ready and willing to engage in trials, developing sites and local investigators who can support recruitment and retention, and developing the next generation of trialists from across the multidisciplinary team.
  3. by researching how to do trials better – trials methodology research is essential if we are to design faster, more cost-effective, better quality trials for older people

In all of these activities, I seek to ensure that patients, carers and the public are at the centre of our activities, whether that be in trial design, trial management, or disseminating results.

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My key areas of research activity at Newcastle are:

- Designing and conducting randomised controlled trials for older people, particularly focussing on improving physical function and quality of life for older people. My activity encompasses several disease areas, but has a central focus on sarcopenia (the age-related loss of muscle mass that affects function for many older people)

- Building capacity across the UK and beyond to recruit older people to clinical trials. Essential activity in ensuring that healthcare evidence is appropriate to inform healthcare for older people - the main customers for care.

- Researching how to do trials better, quicker and more cost-effectively for older people. Research on how to do research is sparse, yet crucial if we are to deliver more successful trials for older people

Underpinning and informing these activities are other clinical research components, including:

- Epidemiology of disease in ageing (including frailty and multimorbidity)

- Use of routinely collected clinical data, in health and social care, for research purposes

- Global health and Ageing - including collaborations with colleagues in South Africa, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso

- Systematic reviews and meta-analyses, including individual participant data meta-analysis

Selected recent publications:

Payne CF, Davies JI, Gomez-Olive FX, Hands KJ, Kahn K, Kobayashi LC, Tipping B, Tollman SM, Wade A, Witham MD. Cross-sectional relationship between haemoglobin concentration and measures of physical and cognitive function in an older rural South African population. J Epid Comm Health 2018 [epub ahead of print]

Beveridge LA, Khan F, Struthers AD, Armitage J, Barchetta I, Bressendorff I, Cavallo M, Clarke R, Dalan R, Dreyer G, Gepner A, Forouhi N, Harris R, Hitman G, Larsen T, Khadgawat R, Marckmann P, Mose F, Pilz S, Scholze A, Shargorodsky M, Sokol S, Stricker H, Zoccali C, Witham MD. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on markers of vascular function - a systematic review and individual participant meta-analysis. J Am Heart Assoc 2018 [in press]

Gillies K, Bower P, Elliott J, MacLennan G, Newlands RSN, Ogden M, Treweek SP, Wells M, Witham MD, Young B, Francis JJ. Systematic techniques to enhance retention in randomised controlled trials: the STEER study protocol. Trials 2018; 19: 197.

Band MM, Sumukadas D, Struthers AD, Avenell A, Donnan PT, Kemp PR, Smith KT, Hume CL, Hapca A, Witham MD. Leucine and ACE inhibitors as therapies for sarcopenia (LACE trial): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials 2018 ;19: 6.

Sumukadas D, Price R, McMurdo MET, Rauchhaus P, Struthers A, McSwiggan S, Arnold G, Abboud R, Witham M, The effect of perindopril on postural instability in older people with a history of falls—a randomised controlled trial. Age Ageing 2018; 47: 75-81

Payne CF, Wade A, Kabudula CW, Davies JI, Chang AY, Gomez-Olive FX, Kahn K, Berkman LF, Tollman SM, Salomon JA, Witham MD. Prevalence and correlates of frailty in an older rural African population: findings from the HAALSI cohort study. BMC Geriatr 2017; 17: 293

Gomez-Olive FX, Schroders J, Aboderin I, Byass P, Chatterji S, Davies JI, Debpuur C, Hirve S, Hodgson A, Juvekar S, Kahn K, Kowal P, Nathan R, Ng N, Razzaque A, Sankoh O, Streatfield PK, Tollman SM, Wilopo SA, Witham MD. Variations in disability and quality of life with age and sex between eight Lower and Middle Income Countries – data from the INDEPTH WHO-SAGE collaboration. BMJ Glob Health 2017; 2: e000508

McMurdo M, Sumukadas D, Donnan P, Cvoro V, Rauchhaus P, Argo I, Waldie H, Littleford R, Struthers A, Witham M.Spironolactone for people aged 70 or over with osteoarthritic knee pain: a proof of concept trial. Arthritis Care and Research 2016; 68(5): 716-21

Fulton RL, McMurdo MET, Hill A, Abboud RJ, Arnold GP, Struthers AD, Khan F, Vermeer C, Knapen MHJ, Drummen NEA, Witham MD. Effect of vitamin K on vascular health and physical function in older people with vascular disease – a randomised controlled trial. J Nutr Health Ageing 2016;20(3): 325-33.

 Witham MD, Band MM, Littleford RC, Avenell A, Soiza RL, McMurdo MET, Sumukadas D, Ogston SA, Lamb EJ, Hampson G, McNamee P. Does oral sodium bicarbonate therapy improve function and quality of life in older patients with chronic kidney disease and low-grade acidosis (the BiCARB trial)? Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials 2015;16:326. doi: 10.1186/s13063-015-0843-6.

 Doyle EM, Sloan JM, Goodbrand JA, McMurdo MET, Donnan PT, McGilchrist MM, Frost H, Witham MD.Association between renal function, rehabilitation outcome and survival in older patients discharged from inpatient rehabilitation. Am J Kidney Dis 2015; 66(5):768-74.

Beveridge LA, Struthers AD, Khan F, Jorde R, Scragg R, Macdonald HM, Alvarez JA, Boxer RS, Dalbeni A, Gepner AD, Isbel NM, Larsen T, Nagpal J, Petchey WG, Stricker H, Strobel F, Tangpricha V, Toxqui L, Vaquero MP, Wamberg L, Zittermann A, Witham MD; D-PRESSURE Collaboration. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis incorporating individual patient data. JAMA Intern Med. 2015; 175: 745-54.

Sumukadas D, Band M, Miller S, Cvoro V, Witham MD, Struthers AD, McConnachie A, Lloyd SM, McMurdo ME. Do ACE inhibitors improve the response to exercise training in functionally impaired older adults?: a randomised controlled trial. J Gerontol A Med Sci 2013; 69: 736-43.

Witham MD, Price RJG, Struthers AD, Donnan PT, Messow CM, Ford I, McMurdo MET. High-dose, intermittent Vitamin D treatment to reduce blood pressure in older patients with isolated systolic hypertension. JAMA Intern Med 2013; 173: 1672-9.